Identity: My Life as a Third Culture Kid

“Home is everywhere and nowhere.” ~Ruth Van Reken

Travel has always been a major part of my life. Change, I have always accepted and moved on. But as I matured and grew up and once again had to move from my home, leaving behind everyone and everything, I was forced to break through the norms of my obliviousness from my childhood and ask myself another question.


And while I was, at the time, immersed in the realm of questioning my life and my identity and why everything was so, I found myself more lost than ever.

“Who am I?”

“Where am I from?”

I couldn’t answer them. Not a single one.

What is my cultural identity?

A few years ago, I had stumbled upon a term – Third Culture Kid.

A Third Culture Kid is someone who has lived in at least two different cultures, which mash together creating a third one. None of which they fit into perfectly. Their parents, having lived the majority of their lives in one main place, represent the first culture. The people the child has grown up around and constantly interact with in other countries represent the second culture. By taking both those identities and mixing them together in a big load of confusion, you have created your third culture.

When you’re a Third Culture Kid, travel is a big part of your life. This is true for me; I have never been in one place for more than three to four years, with my family already having moved four times since my birth. Many places we can relate to at a basic, superficial level, but none that we truly know to the core.

One of the more drastic downfalls to being a TCK for me is that you can never be a lasting part of someone’s life. By the time you get close enough to them, you’re once again up and gone, high-tailing it to another country for whatever reason – for me, my dad’s job. We are the crudely-mended chess piece which is ultimately taken out game after game, because we are broken. This leads to constantly being in the state of temporary. We’re always stuck in the past, thinking about what we left behind, yet forced to be dragged back to the present, and then constantly thinking about what may happen in the near future.

So who am I?

My passport says Canadian. My accent dictates American. My parents and the dim-sum in my home town tell me Cantonese (Hong Kong). My childhood tells me Shanghai. My majority of friends and memories say Taiwan. Once again, the current apartment I live in tells me Hong Kong. And one day, I may be sent off to boarding school and college in America or England.

However, being a Third Culture Kid comes with its perks. We tend to have a much wider level of acceptance and understanding when it comes to strangers and disagreements. This means being able to see from numerous perspectives and basically being able to understand almost any point of view, whether I agree with it or not. This has made me a terrific debater, someone who understands all sorts of politics and a strong MUN delegate, something which I will always use to my advantage. Whatever argument comes up, I can easily strike it down with my level of foresight. But all this comes from the ability to be able to understand others, and have empathy. This ability has been rooted in me since birth, from having to adopt to culture after culture, surroundings constantly changing.

However, at the end of the day, none of this matters. Being from different places doesn’t dictate who you are. Yes, I don’t have a place that I can call home and that I can fit in to like a glove. Yes, I will always struggle with the “Where are you from?” statement on questionnaires. And yes, all this disappoints me. Sometimes, I do envy first culture kids who have a stable, constant life, being able to grow up with friends and familiar surroundings and being able to be a part of their lives as well. But this is all just change. And change happens every day. Even if TCKs stay rooted in one place, the world will continue to morph without them. But because we are never in one place, we will be the ones who lead the change. We will be the ones able to seek new things, to become bigger and better, to add to our backgrounds.

I will be the one dictating the change in the world. I will be the one that makes the world better. I will be the one to change the tides in a conference room or at a debate. And hell, if a zombie apocalypse comes, I will be the one that survives.

So who am I?

I’m a Third Culture Kid. And I’m proud to be one.


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